Dear Lawyer Mark: I am very concerned about something and wondering if you can help me.
I’m no longer a spring hen, and with my health issues, I don’t think I’ll be around for long. I live alone, but my children watch over me and help me every day.
My problem is that they don’t know that I have a lot of credit card debt.
It started when I fell behind on my doctor’s bills, then I needed a little more to pay for my food and medicine because my social security wasn’t enough for all that.
When the interest and late fees added up, my interest rate went up again, and now I have about $20,000 that I owe.
I’m afraid that when I die, they’ll go after my kids for payment, and they’ll live paycheck after paycheck like everyone else.
What can I do? — Petrified to Perry
Dear Petrified: There are a number of things you can do, but let me immediately dispel one fear: unless your children have signed off on the credit card application, the credit card companies can’t.” pursue them”.
In Ohio and most other states, there is a provision called the Fraud Statute. In general, this law says that unless someone agrees in writing to be bound by the debt of another, he cannot be held responsible for it.
This means that your creditor cannot sue your children for a debt that belongs to you after your death.
However, this provision does not exempt your estate from the obligation.
Everyone should have a will, which tells the court how you want your assets divided after you die.
Before the probate court distributes your property, however, all of your debts must be paid by your estate.
This means that if you want to allow your children to inherit from you, you must have enough assets to pay off your debt.
There are several things you can do while you live to pay off debt if you want your children to have an inheritance.
First, you can try negotiating directly with the credit card company or have someone do it on your behalf.
Often, creditors are willing to settle for much less than is owed, as a large portion of the debt can be made up of extremely high late fees and finance charges, so the creditor has never really advanced you. money to start.
If you choose a credit counseling agency, be sure to use a licensed nonprofit agency. Pay close attention to the companies you see advertised on TV.
Often, these are for-profit companies charging you while your credit rating plummets and waiting for you to be sued to “attempt” to settle your debt.
Another option you may have is to declare bankruptcy, which could potentially erase all of your debts.
Since bankruptcy depends on individual circumstances, I recommend that you speak to a lawyer: most bankruptcy lawyers do not charge consulting fees.
It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions he has received. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or email him at [email protected] The right to condense and/or edit any questions is reserved.